Bruce Smith

Devotion: New York, 1970

In the singing school there were weepholes
and rats, preternatural creatures in sequins who spoke a Creole
no one understood. There was a pain threshold
feedback from the amps. There were harlequin opals
in the navels. There were flames
of cellophane the exhaust fan flamed.
I behave like what I am – a legitimate gypsy
said Lorca’s shadow leaving St. Marks-in-the-Bowery.
In the work and underwork of the coat closet
you were rubbed in fur and worsted.
There was a narcoleptic Juliet on a balcony
your voice annoyed. There was archeology
in the twice-cooked pork, cultures in the cheeses.
Instead of character you had disease.
There was a mime of the holocaust
in your run for the bus.
Then you went through tunnels saying
“In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida, Baby,”
and came out blinking like Plato.
The burden of autumn sun, sparrows,
sophomores and young execs, arrogant
humble people who would whine and rant
and you, cynical and triumphantly
getting by without soul, without dancing, without l-u-v.

Bruce Smith
“Devotion: New York, 1970” is from Devotions (University of Chicago Press, 2011).